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The year I return to Love.

I started reading at the tender age of six and the first book I ever read had the word “orchard” in it. I remember this because it is a lie. I, in fact, do not remember anything from when I was aged six but I remember burying my head in books very early on and simply enjoying the fine art of reading. Books took me to many places my parents couldn’t afford to and reading allowed me to flirt with words long before I knew what they meant.

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When I became a teenager, Romance was the genre I loved to read the most and historical romance was the hill I sat quietly upon on many days. Viscounts would sweep beautiful ladies off their feet and Rakes would make the tummies of Duchesses flutter with raving mad desires. My favourite story arc was usually when the lady in question falls in love right at the beginning but doesn’t realise it until two-thirds of the book had passed. Then the nonchalant Duke who is also madly in love with her performs one final gesture of chivalry that sets all of their emotions over the moon and they end up confessing undying love to each other. Bonus points when they’re both dreadfully gorgeous human beings that everybody is dying to get in bed with. While I am not sure what exactly tickled me the most about it, whether it was the most-of-the-time weak-ass plot? the hard-to-get play by both parties? The endless steamy scenes where they always manage to stop before ravishing each other? I just know I enjoyed it all.

Then I grew up and hated everything with equal vim. I disliked it so much that I considered everyone else who read the genre a ‘sore loser’ and didn’t want anything to do with them. They say insight is ten over ten and now that I look back, I believe this was because I managed to internalise these fictional things that I used to read about and could not bear to compromise for what I considered lesser in the real world. I was far from mature enough to understand the spirit of discernment. Trust me when I say it was one of the rudest shocks in my life when I realized a prospect would absolutely not come to my window at night to profess his undivided devotion to me, even when I especially lived under conditions that did not permit such foolishness.

Not long after my first reality check, I did away with anything that did as much as spelt ‘love’ to my face. It felt like an insult to my injuries and the only way I could deal with something that was not going to go away was to pretend it was absolutely beneath me. I usually excel at anything I put my mind to, and I have realized that. That was why even though, I wasn’t sure whether what I was doing was right or wrong, I soon became flawless at the art of disguise. I very quickly mastered the act of pretending I had no use for companionship and my favourite saying was “disregard males, acquire currency”, a more acceptable coinage of “fuck niggas, get money”. I welcomed insouciance into my life and didn’t look back. 🤭

I am not one to beat myself up too much about the past (a few months ago, this would have been a bald-faced lie haha) and that’s exactly why I’m not going to analyze my past behaviour any further in this post. My focus is on the present and potentially the future, but especially now. I understand that my perception or should I say, what I understood love to mean was particularly flawed. What I read in all of those books only did justice to one out of many parts of what love could be and it didn’t give me the well-rounded picture that my malleable mind needed at the time. I ate up; with so much gusto, tales by authors who knew what to do with their mightier-than-swords pens and left no space in my head for any part of life’s real deal.

Photo by Shamia Casiano

As I said, I would not be driving myself up the wall about the actions of my teen years (a little further into my twenties🤭), thank you very much. Chances are even you who currently reads have your own story to tell 😉. Anyway, the onus of this post is to share how I am currently finding my way back to what I’ve subconsciously dedicated more than half of my life to running away from. Mainly because I have grown and allowed myself to understand some things better. Specifically by continuously stimulating my mind with even more books albeit not of the romance genre. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt:

Love is taught, there is no prescience. I don’t think anyone was born with the concept of how to navigate it and I think it’s important to think about this more often when we think about life in general. The sad truth is that a great many of us are not familiar with what love is and so we just latch onto whatever iteration of it is presented to us, be it via familial relationships or through what we see in the media. People tend to go with the flow of what they’ve perceived from their surroundings and rinse and repeat. Therefore, it’s very tricky to sit and give one singular definition to love because some would tell you it is relative, based on what they think it means to them. I could be wrong but I think love’s definition should be universal because that way, we all get the same thing and there are no misinterpretations or -representations.

Love is a choice. It was not until recently I started asking myself, “do you know how much of a choice being in love is?” The undeniable truth is it takes conscious effort to want to practice the act of loving others as opposed to how effortless society often makes it seem. The first time I heard the saying “to walk in love”, I was like “what is this faux-depth nonsense? Everyone says fall in love, why are you trying to be different?” Apparently, I was too naive to make sense of what was staring me in the face.

I strongly believe that love is a choice, and I wish everyone knew that too. It’s why the saying “I’ve fallen in love with you” doesn’t and shouldn’t make sense. Because instead of genuine love, it’s giving “I had no control over my thoughts and actions and I’ve unashamedly fallen into something that I can’t explain how and what it is with you, just like a child”. The truth I have found is that to be in real love, you have to be aware. None of that “I can’t explain how” balderdash. Because love isn’t limited to attraction and even though you may feel emotionally consumed by another, it does not always mean you love them. After all, there’s a thin line between love and cathexis.

I would go on about more things I’ve learnt but I try to keep my posts moving these days. Seeing as we’ve all been afflicted with short attention spans that don’t let us do much except doomscroll endlessly on the internet (shade!). I say this is the year I return to love, not because I am back to reading romance novels. I still find them dreadfully annoying, I can’t help it. This is the year I return to love because I am embracing the knowledge that there is more to love, and the art of loving. And even though I have mostly done it wrong for like half of my current lifetime, it’s never too late for do-overs.

Random tangent before I end this: why is it that if they ask us to list three people we love the most, we instinctively go on about other people in our lives and don’t even mention ourselves? Is it because we’re conditioned to think love is something we must only give to others? I hope we know love is something we take too? I hope we always remember to take as much as we give. 💛

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